The era of the digital society has served as a natural foundation for the development and widespread dissemination of information as a value. Modern industrialization and technological advances have fully enabled most people around the world to share useful materials, share news, and keep up with current trends. One such avenue that helps to realize and maintain these channels of communication on a daily basis are lectures, popular science sources, and documentaries that raise serious questions for a mass audience. In this sense, of particular academic interest is an in-depth study of the rhetorical techniques and practices used by presenters to give their speeches greater credibility and credibility in the participants’ eyes. To concretize this rhetorical analysis, a branch of popular science writing covering environmental issues, namely plastic recreation in the world’s oceans, was chosen.
This essay consistently and in detail examines the essential milestones of the presenter’s speech, which was aimed at a broad stratum of viewers. In more detail, an episode of the regular TED Talks show, in which famous individuals, people in business, and scientists convince the audience of their own rightness, was selected for analysis. In the chosen video, David Katz, an entrepreneur, alchemist, and eco-activist, offers the viewer a monologue on why traditional methods of combating plastic pollution of ocean waters are useless, as shown in Figure 1 (Katz). Thus, the central argument of the entire performance can be formulated as encouraging society to abandon indirect methods of pollution control in favor of creating the concept of social plastic. The key word in this argument is encouragement since in his speech, Katz not only tells but also urges the audience to change through a paradigm shift in the perception of the problem.
A significant milestone for the discussion is to explore the persona of the speaker, namely David Katz. Before following his ideas and becoming a link in the constructed social mechanism, it is essential to make sure that the speaker is authoritative and unbiased. Researching the man’s identity through available online platforms, including Google, LinkedIn, and the TED Portfolio, provides insight that Katz is the CEO and co-founder of the Plastic Bank (David Katz), a community organization. A study of the company’s activities shows that its central partners are brands such as Shell, Henkel, and Marks and Spencer, which may indicate a high level of trust. In addition, the Bank has branches in several developing countries, and the number will continue to grow over time, according to the man (Katz). It is additionally intriguing to note that Katz considers high moral principles as the basis of his vision, among which are humanity, justice, and belief in goodness. Such an analysis shows perfectly the authority and impartiality of the speaker, and hence there is still no reason to doubt his correctness.
In addition, rhetorical analysis involves examining the structure of the target audience to whom the message is directed. It is paramount to recognize that the general subject matter of the speech is an excellent symbiosis of scientific knowledge and a popular style of presentation. In addition, the focus of the TED platform on which the material has been posted must also be taken into account. Thus, combining the two factors, it is pertinent to note that the core of the target audience is composed of a public that does not have a deep affiliation with academia but is nonetheless interested in environmental protection. Such a cohort includes eco-activists, public figures, and ordinary people trying to make the planet a better place. Katz, meanwhile, radically changes the usual paradigm of how environmental issues are perceived, and so a specific part of the audience may be represented by academics, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Thus, it would be misleading to assert the uniqueness of the perceived audience, and it is, therefore, appropriate to conclude that the audience for this talk could be any individual with any interest in the topic of environmental security.
Confirmation of the idea that there is no strict specification of the audience comes from stylistic and syntactic analyses of Katz’s speech. The man did not formulate complex word constructions or use strictly professional terms. Thus, some of the more difficult words that pertained to the topic at hand included “recycling,” “virtual bill,” or “plastic waste baling” (Katz). It seems evident that such terms are accessible to the untrained listener, and thus Katz did not seek to narrow the audience. On the other hand, an analysis of the speaker’s intonation manner also indicates that the message can be easily assimilated and processed by any individual. It is worth explicitly emphasizing that between the semantic parts of the sentences, David created small gaps of the silence of about 1-2 seconds in order for everyone in the audience to hear and analyze what was said earlier (Zimmer, 2019). Based on the above arguments, the idea of a shared perceived audience seems well supported.
Thus, having explored in detail the elements of the speaker’s biography and stylistic features, it is appropriate to turn to a rhetorical analysis of the central argument. In short, the central message of the speech is to reject ineffective ways of cleaning up the oceans from plastic and instead to address the essence of the clogging problem. In this sense, a claim is the idea of high-impact social plastic programs. David Katz wants audiences to be able to believe his words that traditional methods of fighting, although seemingly serious, are actually “a drop in the ocean” (Katz). Therefore, the evidence used by the entrepreneur in his conviction was a discussion of statistics and the personal story of one of Katz’s female clients, whose plight was meant to hurt the audience’s feelings.
In addition, the speaker repeatedly referred to the mention of famous brands, the name of which should be an additional argument for the audience in terms of how developed the idea of the Plastic Bank is. Finally, the warrant was presented as a nexus of cited evidence in support of the claim (What are Claims). More specifically, each of the evidence told, be it numbers, brands, or history, was subsequently reinforced by the point that the Bank’s proposed idea solves said problems and is therefore credible. The use of big numbers was followed by a discussion of the inefficiency of habitual plastic garbage collection. Next, the story told characterized the trustworthiness and morality of the company. Finally, mentioning several global brands convinced the audience of the reliability of the proposed idea since even conglomerates trust Katz.
Since rhetorical analysis involves the fragmentation of a whole speech into different aspects concerning the categories of ethos, logos, and pathos, it is appropriate to conduct a more in-depth study of the man’s monologue. Thus, the reference to Katz’s personal involvement in the public project under discussion served as an excellent tool for creating an image of a reliable and credible speaker. There is no doubt that if the speaker had been a rank-and-file employee of the firm, it would have elicited less credibility, as subordinate employees cannot objectively know the full range of values and guidelines that define the organization (Morgan, 2017). In contrast, the fact that Plastic Bank’s CEO was the speaker increases the credibility of the speaker because the viewer is watching an engaged, interested individual who is fully aware of all internal processes. In addition, the man repeatedly refers to various methods of evidence in his speech, including statistics or references to serious brands, which is an additional incentive for the audience to trust the speaker. Someone who is broadly aware of a profile issue and is able to operate with statistics is trustworthy. It is interesting to note, however, that in his short monologue, Katz did not present himself as an expert, did not talk about his education, or did not try to utilize professional vocabulary. On the contrary, the methods used were not aimed at demonstrating the speaker’s competence and regalia but at creating an image of a profoundly motivated individual.
On the other hand, there was emotion in the speech, which Katz repeatedly referred to in order to persuade the audience further. Strong emotions are known to have a positive effect on persuasion and increased engagement, and thus their use is an effective rhetorical strategy (Beqiri, 2018). In the monologue, Katz told the audience the tragic story of a regular Plastic Bank customer: the woman from a poverty-stricken country who had no money for housing and education for her two daughters. In addition, Katz mentioned evocatively that the woman lost her husband in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This data was used primarily to make the listener feel sympathy for the client’s plight and realize that the Plastic Bank had actually been a lifesaver for her. Katz clarified that now that the woman brings plastic waste to the collection center daily, she is able to pay for her children’s education and to buy school uniforms for them. This description is a prime example of an emotional impetus for trust, which was very comfortably incorporated into the overall story. In addition, David Katz used graphic images (Figure 2) that were also meant to evoke feelings of discomfort, empathy, and a desire to care.
Meanwhile, in the structure of Katz’s speech, one can notice the fulfillment of Homer’s rhetorical rule concluding the necessity of alternating solid and middle arguments. More specifically, the speaker initially used numerical data, pointing to the total quantities of plastic created by humanity. One of the most potent phrases here was the following: “Roughly eight million tons are racing to flow into the ocean to join the estimated 150 million tons already there” (Katz). Then, the woman’s story told served as a middle ground of persuasiveness because it is a subjective, possibly individual scenario. Finally, Katz again turned to strong arguments when he decided to mention well-known brands that evoked a sense of reliability and trust in the audience.
On the other hand, the speaker used another method of logical persuasion of the audience, based on an appeal to reasonableness. Specifically, in the first half of the speech, the man operated on a real-life, intuitive example to explain the unreasonableness of plastic collection strategies in the ocean. Katz showed an image of a kitchen faucet spilling out — as shown in Figure 3 — and asked the audience what the first action should be to deal with the disaster. Obviously, collecting the spilled water is useless when the faucet is unclosed, and the human-made the same analogy with collecting plastic from the world’s oceans. Thus, this example served as an additional level of persuasion through the listener’s common sense.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the popular science video of the Plastic Bank CEO’s speech offered for analysis is an excellent illustration of the appropriate and correct use of rhetorical devices. The analysis conducted in this paper showed that the speaker used well-known techniques of persuasion through reason, emotion, and confidence-building, which means that the central argument is quite convincing. At the conclusion of reading the video of the speech, the listener may have had a natural sense of the importance and social significance of the proposed solution to the plastic littering problem. Katz elegantly fulfilled his function as a TED speaker, which was further evidenced by the loud applause and cheers immediately after the conclusion of the monologue. It should be noted, however, that David Katz did not distort objective reality, as he did not offer qualitatively bad ideas or myths in his presentation. Nevertheless, the man was able to refute the traditional vision of combating plastic waste in the ocean by creating a paradigm of cyclical consumption of plastic and making the seemingly second-rate material of high economic value.
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